University of Belgrade – Belgrade, Serbia

At the University of Belgrade there is a Centre for Career Development. The initiative for establishing this centre originated from the EQUIED project. The University of Belgrade then adopted a Short-Term Strategy for the Improvement of Support and Assistance to University of Belgrade students for the period 2015-2017. As part of this strategy, the Career Development and Counseling Centre for University of Belgrade students was tasked with designing a program based on the good practices from the EQUIED project. This led to the creation of the “Prepare and Enroll” program. The academic staff took this initiative to implement measures for the University to strive for equal access to higher education. This centre supports: persons with disabilities, low-income students, first generation students, the Roma population, students without parents or from single-parent families, students from rural areas, students facing current difficulties such as a sick family member or a recent loss of a family member. Children from secondary school student dormitories often belong to one of these groups, and they provide evidence of this when applying for the dormitory. Only children from dormitories have the right to apply to the support programs of this Centre because the program is implemented in collaboration with these institutions.

In the last two years the following activities regarding equal access/inclusion/diversity were taken under the plan:
Support and counselling for students and university staff,
Lectures, workshops, seminars for students, faculty, and non-teaching staff,
Cost coverage of preparations for university enrolment.
The cost coverage of preparations for university enrolment has the greatest impact because the financial aspect appears to be something that secondary schools’ students from these vulnerable groups are most aware of as a source of concern, i.e., that they need support in that regard. Although these other forms of support are also welcome, students do not consider them as valuable as financial support.
The program’s newest innovation involves promoting it at the faculties with the aim of securing the highest possible number of slots for students through the financial incentives provided by the program.

The research results from the EQUIED project support the conclusion that specific population groups are underrepresented in higher education and these results served as motivation for the establishment of the center. This program is successful because students from underrepresented population groups in higher education genuinely receive concrete support, including financial assistance for preparation for entrance exams. They also receive psychological support, but financial support is particularly meaningful for them. Additionally, its success is attributed to the willingness of faculties to actively encourage students to enroll in studies specifically at their institutions.
The University of Belgrade Administration initiates the implementation of this program towards faculties, specifically towards the vice-deans for education. The Career Development Center, in collaboration with high school student dormitories in Belgrade, executes the program. It communicates with faculties to define benefits and determine the specific conditions of the competition for admission to the faculties, and evaluation takes place based on good practices from the EQUIED project. An expert committee, consisting of professors from the University, primarily from the Faculty of Philosophy, as well as experts from student dormitories and program implementers from the Career Development Center, meet after the evaluation of applications and decides which students will participate in the program. Subsequently, students are informed about the results through dormitory associates and begin preparations for entrance exams using the provided benefits. Additionally, they receive psycho-pedagogical support through consultations with psychologists and educators from the Career Development Center, along with materials and webinars on successful learning and preparation for entrance exams. The program is designed by the Centre for Career Development as an organizational unit of the University of Belgrade, in collaboration with the expert committee. Diversity, inclusion, and equality are explicitly mentioned both in the plan and in the university’s strategies, policies, work plans etc.
The Center implements this program in collaboration with faculties. Faculties provide financial incentives, and this is the sole source of funding. All program implementers carry out their tasks related to the program as part of their regular duties at the University or in student dormitories, and they are not specifically compensated for this work. This funding method poses a challenge for program sustainability and complicates the development of new practices and tools. Also, the sustainability is called into question by the potential upcoming change in the policy framework regarding the exclusive evaluation of graduation exams for university admissions and the abolishment of entrance exams at the universities. If the graduation exam is introduced at the end of high school, it will be an obstacle to the implementation of the program because there won’t be preparation for the entrance exam directly at the universities.
The program evaluation is conducted through follow-up with students. After they enrol in university, we contact them and use telephone surveys to assess the impact of the program, checking if they successfully enrolled in university. The results of the evaluation are exchanged among the stakeholders within the university.

Centre for Career Development, University of Belgrade

Belgrade, Serbia